Treasure Island

Wilfrid Scawen Blunt

(1840 - 1922 / England)

A Day In The Castle Of Envy


The castle walls are full of eyes,
And not a mouse may creep unseen.
All the window slits are spies;
And the towers stand sentinel
High above the gardens green.
Not a lizard lurking close
In the brambles of the dell;
Not a beetle as he goes,
Toiling in the dust, may tell
The least secret of his woes
To the idle butterflies;
Not a privet moth may flit,
But the castle looketh wise,
But the old king knoweth it.

All day long the garden gates
Open stand for who will in,
For the old king loveth well
The reek of human loves and hates.
Most of all he loveth sin,
All that sendeth souls to Hell;
All that hath the earthy smell
Of a joy that soon shall die.
And he sitteth there and saith:
``Every creature that hath breath
Goeth with the taint of death.''

There he waiteth overhead,
Spieth out what he may spy,
Like an evil--omened gled.
From the morning till the night,
There is nothing which doth move,
There is nothing which can lie
Still and hidden out of sight,
But he seeth it above,
But he feeleth all the pleasure
Of its basking in the sun.
And his wisdom taketh measure
Of the sorrow which shall come
When the summer days are done.
Life and love are quickly run.
So he watcheth silently,
Waiting till the end shall be.

There he sitteth at the dawn
When the world begins to rouse;
And the daisies on the lawn
Open wide their stainless eyes;
Then he feeleth as in pain
For the wrinkles on his brows.
He doth envy the sunrise,
That it maketh all things gay;
And his jealous ear hath heard
The first piping of a bird;
And he curseth at the day.
But his curses are in vain
For the world grows young again.

From the shadow of the rocks,
Stealing out and stealing in,
Creeps the hungry foot--pad fox,
On the wild fowls nestled close.
Then a weirdly smile and thin
Curleth on his lip and nose,
As the red beast winds the flocks.
And there is an evil mirth,
In the glitter of his eye;
For the sun hath warmed the earth,
And he seeth something stir
In the grass and then awake,
Turn and stretch her stealthily;
And he hisseth at the snake,
As the heat unfoldeth her.

There he bideth through the noon,
While the pine tops clash together,
Till deep silence, like a tune,
Wrappeth all the earth and air;
And the old king dreamily
Noddeth his great heron feather,
As he sitteth in his chair.
For sleep cometh upon all,
Rock and castle, flower and tree;
And the turrets wave and quiver;
And the battlemented wall
Bendeth in the haze of noon,
And the fir--cones one by one,
Split like thunder in the heat;
And the old king hearing it,
Saith, ``It is the angry sun.''

But, as noontide slowly wears,
From the hollows underneath
Solemn ravens cross in pairs,
Drop a hollow croak and pass,
Which the king, who listeneth,
Readeth for the name of Death.
And he mocketh at the sound,
Croaketh back a croak as hoarse:
For he knoweth they are bound
To the dell where, on the grass,
There is that which was a corse.

Suddenly a merry noise
In the garden makes him glad,
For he knoweth well what joys
Noise and merriment shall bring.
They are children come to tread
The young daisies on the head;
And he loveth well their play,
For they take the butterflies
And they tear them wing from wing;
And the old king looketh wise
At the footstep on the bed,
And the broken myrtle spray;
And he readeth all the lies
Which their innocence shall tell.
Well it pleaseth him such eyes
Should have learned the speech of Hell.

But at evening, lovers walk
Underneath the ilex trees;
And the king hath heard their talk,
And the vows which they have spoken;
And he knoweth too the tale
Of the vows which they have broken,
And the name and history,
And the secret which doth lie
Underneath their smiling pale;
And the hidden tale of sorrow
Of the maiden as she goes,
And the pleasures she doth borrow,
That her grief may learn to die.
And he laugheth at her woes
As his red eye reads the scrawl
Love once wrote upon the wall,
Love grown cold, whose tasting is
Like the last lees of a kiss.

Thus he sitteth till the sun
Sendeth out long shadows slant
Till the fish--tanks down beneath
Hidden lie in vapour dun;
And the castle rising gaunt
Slowly stretcheth out its limbs,
Like a drowsy--headed Hun.
But when all is deep in shade,
And the broad sun on the sea
Lieth on his flaming bed,
Twisteth, writheth in agony,
Like a wizard fiery clad,
Tortured and about to die,
Then the old king goeth mad.

And he curseth loud thereat;
Curseth at the setting sun;
Curseth at the coming night;
Curseth at the flitting bat,
And the stars which cannot see;
Curseth at the pale moonrise,
And her solemn mockery
Of a daylight which is done;
Thinketh, though he should curse the skies,
Every hour till night is gone
Naught his curses may devise
For the pale moon's sorceries,
Or the darkness which shall be.
This the thought which tortureth him
That, for all he watcheth close,
Though his eyes be bright alway,
And, for all that he is king,
All the knowledge of all he knows
Telleth not what night may bring,
Telleth not what steps may stray.

Then he sendeth forth a scout,
Biddeth shut the garden gate:
And there is a sudden rout
Of the children and the lovers
Whom the warder's eye discovers
In the twilight lurking late,
Lovers who are loath to part.
But their prayers avail them not,
And the maiden's witching pout
Cannot melt the warder's heart.
Straightway he hath turned them out.
For along the castle wall
Go the archers stout and tall,
And the king, who sitteth still,
In the darkness of the tower,
Waiteth till the seneschal,
With his stalwart serving--men,
Bear him out against his will
In his chair, while curses shower.

To the banquet he is borne,
While the cracked bell tolleth slow.
And the king doth beat his breast
Slowly to that chime forlorn;
Beateth on his beard of snow,
First in anger then in jest,
First in mirth and then in scorn;
Singeth low, ``Ring bravely, bell,
For thy voice is loud and dry.
Such a tongue as thine is good
To out--talk the chimes of Hell.
Laugh we bravely, thou and I,
While the world is in laughing mood.
We may live to laugh its knell.''

Submitted: Tuesday, April 13, 2010

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